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Langan v. Proctor & Gamble

June 24, 2009

MARK LANGAN, PLAINTIFF
v.
PROCTOR & GAMBLE, CO. DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James M. Munley United States District Court

(Judge Munley)

MEMORANDUM

Before the court is the defendant's motion for summary judgment in this action for wrongful termination. The matter has been briefed and is ripe for disposition.

BACKGROUND

Defendant, Proctor & Gamble, operates a paper products facility in Mehoopany, Pennsylvania. Mark Langan, the plaintiff, began working for defendant in September 1997 in the Environmental Services department. (Complaint (Doc. 1-4) at ¶ 8). Over the course of his employment, the plaintiff earned several promotions and raises, attaining the position of "zone owner " in May 2003. (Id. at ¶ 9-13). As a "zone owner," the plaintiff was responsible for ensuring that the defendant complied with state and federal regulations regarding air and water quality inside and outside of the defendant's plant. (Id. at ¶ 14). As part of this position, the plaintiff maintains that he reported air and water quality issues to various internal and external regulatory bodies. (Id. at ¶¶ 15-18, 22, 28-30). Specifically, the plaintiff states that he called the Environmental Protection Agency in April 2005 to report an oil discharge into the Susquehanna River in 2000. (Id. at ¶¶ 15-16). Moreover, he states that he reported a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit violation in May 2005. (Id. at ¶¶ 17-18).

As a result of reporting environmental concerns that the plaintiff maintains he was required to do under state and federal law, the plaintiff alleges that he was wrongly discharged by the defendant. (Id. at ¶ 27). Both sides agree that the plaintiff's date of discharge was June 7, 2005. (Defendant's Statement of Material Facts, Ex. "Pl's Admissions" (Doc 23-3), EEOC Charge of Discrimination Form). Subsequently, the plaintiff filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) on June 3, 2006, nearly one year later, alleging various instances of gender discrimination and retaliation for complaining about gender discrimination. Id. On his EEOC and PHRC submission, the defendant did not make any allegations that he was terminated for environmental reporting, although that concern is presumptively outside the scope of those agencies. Id. The plaintiff later received a "right to sue" letter from the PHRC, dated July 16, 2007, allowing him to file a complaint pursuant to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 PA. CONS. STAT. § 962(c). (Defendant's Statement of Material Facts, Ex. "Pl's Interrogatory Responses" (Doc 23-4), Attachment B). On October 15, 2007, the plaintiff filed a complaint in the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas averring a common law claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy based on retaliation for environmental reporting. (Complaint at ¶¶ 1, 27). No gender discrimination claims were made in the complaint.

The case was subsequently removed to this court on February 21, 2008.(Notice of Removal (Doc. 1)). After a period of discovery with regard to the statute of limitations, the defendant filed the instant motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 21).

JURISDICTION

The plaintiff is a citizen of Pennsylvania. The defendant is a multinational corporation with a principal place of business in Cincinnati, Ohio. As such, this court has diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The substantive law of Pennsylvania shall apply to the case. Chamberlain v. Giampapa, 210 F.3d 154, 158 (3d Cir. 2000), citing Erie R.R. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938).

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is properly granted "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Knabe v. Boury, 114 F.3d 407, 410 n. 4 (3d Cir.1997), citing FED. R. CIV. P. 56(C). "[T]his standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original).

An issue of material fact is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury might return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id. at 257. In determining whether a genuine issue of fact exists, a court must resolve all factual doubts and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Conoshenti v. Public Serv. Elec. & Gas Co.,364 F.3d 135, 140 (3d Cir.2004) (citation omitted). Moreover, a fact is "material" if proof of its existence or nonexistence would affect the outcome of the lawsuit under the law applicable to the case. Anderson 477 U.S. at 248; Levendos v. Stern Entertainment Inc., 860 F.2d 1227, 1233 (3d Cir.1988).

When considering a motion for summary judgment, courts must examine the facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. International Raw Materials, Ltd. v. Stauffer Chemical Co., 898 F.2d 946, 949 (3d Cir.1990) (citation omitted). The moving party maintains the burden to demonstrate that the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. Where the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the party moving for summary judgment may meet its burden by showing that the evidentiary materials of record, if reduced to admissible evidence, would be insufficient to carry the non-movant's burden of proof at trial. Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the moving party satisfies its burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party, who must go beyond its pleadings, and designate specific facts by the use of affidavits, depositions, admissions, or answers to interrogatories showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324. DISCUSSION

The plaintiff's sole cause of action is for wrongful termination in violation of public policy based on alleged retaliation for reporting environmental concerns. The defendant moves for summary judgment arguing that the plaintiff did not file the complaint in this matter within the time frame afforded by the ...


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